Yesterday, Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States. This presents cause for concern, given some of President Biden’s public statements.
President Biden has promised to urge state governors to issue new COVID-19 orders, a power that has been abused again and again to unlawfully restrict the rights of churches. We support appropriate health and safety measures. However, we will be especially vigilant to protect against the abuse of these orders given President Biden’s praise of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the pandemic, even though her COVID-19 orders have been struck down by multiple courts, including the Michigan Supreme Court.
Encouraging state and local leaders to adopt national COVID-19 protocols will just create more opportunities for government officials to overstep their power and violate religious freedom. Just ask many churches across the country.
A Series of First Amendment Violations
All over the United States, in response to COVID-19, many public officials overstepped their authority and violated their citizens’ First Amendment right to worship freely. Many of them did so by creating guidelines that treated churches worse than secular businesses.
Perhaps the most blatant example comes from Nevada where the governor prioritized casinos, gyms, and amusement parks over churches. While these secular businesses were allowed to operate at half capacity, churches were only permitted to host a maximum of 50 people.
But despite these challenges, and the new ones that lie ahead, there is hope.
We’ll Keep Defending Your Freedoms
With all the uncertainty that 2020 brought—and that 2021 continues to bring—people of faith need their church communities to help them through and give them hope.
That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom is ready to stand for religious liberty, especially during the years to come. After all, that’s what we’ve been doing for the past 26 years.
ADF already has much experience helping churches respond to unfair COVID-19 restrictions. In fact, we’ve assisted, or equipped others to assist, over 3,200 churches during the pandemic. And so far, we’ve successfully defended the rights of 15 church and ministry clients.
Here are just a few of the important victories we’ve helped churches achieve since March:
- Temple Baptist Church: Greenville, Mississippi – The city of Greenville, Mississippi issued an order that banned drive-in church services, despite the governor’s order allowing such services to continue. Because of the city’s order, attendees of a drive-in service at Temple Baptist Church were given $500 fines! Thankfully, ADF attorneys filed a lawsuit against the city and the City Council responded by waiving the fines, issuing a new order, and lifting the ban on drive-in church services.
- Metropolitan Tabernacle Church: Chattanooga, Tennessee – While Chattanooga’s stay-at-home order originally didn’t ban drive-in church services, the city’s mayor proclaimed a ban was in place shortly before Easter. ADF filed a lawsuit on behalf of Metropolitan Tabernacle Church, and the city reversed its position and agreed to allow drive-in services.
- First Baptist Church and Calvary Baptist Church in Kansas – Two small, rural churches in Kansas faced many challenges in livestreaming church services. The churches are located in areas that had very few COVID-19 cases, so they decided to meet in-person with rigorous social distancing and safety precautions. But Kansas’s governor prohibited these services—even though the same restrictions were not applied to retail establishments and office buildings. ADF stepped in and filed a lawsuit. A court granted temporary protections for these churches, and on April 30, the governor announced a new executive order that did not treat religious groups unfairly.
- Churches in Wake County, North Carolina – Wake County, North Carolina allowed secular businesses like drive-thru restaurants to remain open, but the county made it illegal for churches to collect in-person tithes and distribute prepackaged communion elements at their drive-in services. ADF attorneys sent a demand letter to the county. The county responded by allowing churches to use prepackaged communion and permitting congregants to drop off tithes.
If churches are treated unfairly by more COVID-19 regulations, it would be a huge burden on Americans of faith during an already difficult time.
But make no mistake. ADF will be there to challenge them—all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.
The Constitution’s protection of religious liberty is an essential part of our nation’s character. And the First Amendment is not suspended even during a pandemic.
Will you commit to standing for the freedoms upon which this nation was founded?
Every generation faces a unique moment when it is called on to protect the guarantee of liberty enshrined in our Constitution. This is our moment. Today, you can help protect the American promises of life and liberty.
If you believe these American promises are worth defending, please sign the statement.
- I stand for America’s founding principles: that all men are created equal with inalienable, God-given rights.
- I stand against any unlawful effort by the Biden administration to restrict my constitutional liberties.
- I stand for freedom and will join Alliance Defending Freedom to preserve free speech, religious freedom, the sanctity of life, parental rights, and marriage and family.
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